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Small steps; big changes: a PWS&D intern learns how women inch into the future.

WHEN I APPLIED FOR the internship offered by Presbyterian World Service and Development to work with the Institute for Women's Research Training and Development in E1 Salvador for nine months, it was not done on a whim. I had spent the last three years looking forward to the moment that I would apply for a position overseas. In my final year of undergraduate study--majoring in International Development and Women's Studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax--a friend told me about an international internship program funded by the Canadian International Development Agency. I immediately did some research and decided that I too would participate in an overseas internship following graduation.

Working with IMU has been challenging. Nearly every woman I met, at workshops or meetings, or even in private, has her own tale of violence to tell--spousal abuse or parental abuse, neglect, emotional violence, feelings of worthlessness and uselessness, and disrespect. But most of these stories are firmly ensconced in the past. The majority of women working with associations aligned with IMU tell these histories as just that: histories. Cautionary tales of what befell them, but that which they will never allow to befall their children or themselves again. They work actively towards changing their positions, beginning with the smallest political microcosm--their own family. They state they have learned they have personal worth and value, and that they have the right to an opinion, to assert themselves, and to say "no." Things are changing.

The grander, national and global level change that IMU strives for in the long term will come about as a result of these smaller scale initiatives--anti-violence training, sexual and reproductive education, economic solidarity initiatives, and especially the political "incidencia" campaigns which encourage women to make their political demands known to leaders at the municipal to the national level. These slow moving, difficult-to-capture political changes resulting from the work of IMU strike me as the way of the future. I am honoured to be involved with such an important and valiant organization, and Canadian Presbyterians should feel proud that they are a part of this.
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Author:Thorburn, Elise
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Date:May 1, 2008
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